By Anna Oliwia Wierzbicka. Anna Oliwia Wierzbicka comes from Poland. In 2020, she graduated with honours from the Beijing Language and Culture University with a BA in Chinese Language. Currently she is interning at the Centre for International Relations in Warsaw (Poland) as a part of her Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Euroculture at University of Strasbourg (France) and University of Groningen (the Netherlands). LinkedIn.
What are esports? Are they a sport at all? It is just for fun, right? As video games become increasingly popular, a new profession has appeared: esports player. Nevertheless, they, like us, are ceaselessly confronted with these and many other questions. However, there is no doubt that esports are getting more and more visible. 11% of Europeans watch esports at least once per week. 50% of the European population between 6 and 64 years old play video games. Women constitute 47% of all players. The size of the European video game market increased by 22% in 2020 and reached €23.3bn. The numbers speak for themselves. And these figures translate into good moments to make our world a little better. Did you know that girls who play video games are 3x more likely to choose a STEM-related profession compared to girls that do not? The video games sector is constantly growing, creating new opportunities for Europeans. Esports could be the future of international sports competitions in Europe and beyond. So what is the stance towards esports in the European Union (EU)?
One hundred young men rent an old Neogothic castle in southern Poland for a weekend to dress like medieval noblemen and play games. It sounds like the plot of some B-list horror movie, but it was part of a video game competition in 2019. It is one among many examples of the growing influence of video games on European culture and youth.
This article is part of the IP 2021 series, in which we publish abridged, general-public versions of the academic papers presented in the Euroculture Intensive Programme. This year’s topic was Religion.
By Anna Oliwia Wierzbicka
On ne touche pas aux choses d’Alsace.
“Do not change anything in Alsace.” These words, attributed to the king Louis XIV, may never have been expressed by him, but they can be seen as evidence of the specific attitude of the French crown towards Alsace over the centuries. This attitude has lasted to this day, to the times of the French Fifth Republic. And one of its manifestations is the Concordat of 1801, which regulates the relationship between the state and four religious denominations in Alsace-Moselle (a region that consists of three departments: Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin and Moselle) until this day. It is still in force despite the adoption of the State secularism in France in 1905 by the French Law on the Separation of the Churches and State(Loi du 9 décembre 1905 concernant la séparation des Églises et de l’État), prohibiting any influence of the State on religious matters and vice versa.
The Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is an international song competition organized annually since 1956 by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The idea behind this contest was to unite European countries following the end of World War II. Now, it is the longest-running annual international televised music competition as well as the most popular song-contest in the world.
After the contest being cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, next Saturday, 22nd of May, 2021, the 65th edition of the ESC will be held in the Dutch city of Rotterdam.
Last Saturday, March 6th 2021 Spain’s annual film awards, Los Premios Goya (the Goya awards) were celebrated in Malaga. Since 1987, every year the Goya Awards are held to celebrate the quality of Spanish cinema. Big names such as Fernando Trueba, Pedro Almodóvar, Álex de la Iglesia, Javier Bardem, Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz or Paz Vega are already part of the history of these renowned awards.
This year, the nominees included Salvador Calvo’s “Adú”, which was nominated in 13 different categories and won four of them, “Las niñas” by Pilar Palomero and “Akelarre” by Pablo Agüero, both of them nominated in 9 categories and winners of four and five awards respectively.
As it may be expected, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s Goya Awards were celebrated in a “hybrid way” and the nominees, who were connected through video chat, received their awards from their homes. However, this year’s awards have been marked by a rather unpleasant incident caught during the Facebook live transmission by the Spanish national broadcaster RTVE.
Humanity collectively spends billions of hours on video games each year. Most would brush off such figures as mere trivial entertainment, but Attila Szantner, a web developer, and Bernard Revaz, a physics researcher, saw in them one of the world’s greatest untapped resources. If only a tiny fraction of the time spent on video games could be devoted to science, researchers might quickly find the answers to thorny questions, they reckoned.
Enter Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS). Founded in 2014 by Szantner and Revaz, the company connects video game developers to researchers who seek assistance from citizen scientists. The premise is simple: a background in science is not needed to adequately perform mundane tasks such as pattern recognition or image classification, therefore, by gamifying such tasks, the huge gaming community may contribute thousands of hours to assess large data sets, considerably speeding up scientific research. The project has garnered the attention of several universities, game developers, NGOs, and even of the European Union, which has provided over 570,000 EUR in funding.
In the last decade, the digitization of culture and heritage has become more than a matter of heritage preservation. It has “radically [changed] cultural consumption and production patterns, obliging museums to rethink how they relate to their audiences as users of cultural content.”  In this way, museums were forced to open up to a wider range of visitors by endeavouring to broaden their community scope through new digital initiatives.
A while ago, the hashtag #RIPJKRowling trended on Twitter. It was so enthralling that the social media had to clarify that the English author was indeed still alive and tweeting away. The hashtag was the Twitterverse’s response to Rowling’s new book: “Troubled blood”, published under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith. The bone of contention was a serial killer character, who abducted and murdered women while adorned in female clothes, all to the scintillating tune of ‘never trust a man in a dress’. Like all things on the internet, the hashtag drew both blood and hard lines among two camps, both vociferously defending their stance.
Supporters of Rowling saw the hashtag as an attack on her freedom to speech and right to expression and opinion. After all, she was not the first author to pen a cross-dressing male serial killer. If so, we should also ‘cancel’ Psycho and Silence of the Lamb! For them, the hashtag was simply another blowout from ‘snowflakes’ yet again taking offence to their delicate sensibilities.
Proponents of the hashtag, however, saw themselves as expressing their ire at a beloved author in what they considered the culmination of her transphobic views. To them, the hashtag symbolized the death of Rowling’s reputation and her place and adoration in their lives. The arguments of both parties prompt two critical questions relevant to today’s culture of ‘cancellation’ and political correctness: To tweet or not to tweet? Where does freedom of speech end and consequences begin?
I have spent hours formulating my questions, over and over again, so that they are precise but cannot be interpreted as provocative or too critical. Despite my intensive preparation, we reach a crucial point in the interview and I am nervous. I want to confront my interviewee, ask him why he says X thing happened, when official memos quite clearly state Y event was key instead. The look in his face tells me he doesn’t think I know about it, nor that I am likely to put him in a sore spot.
I ask him an easy question first, let him paint a pretty picture, before I move on to the meaty stuff. Then I aim my metaphorical weapon. I make sure my posture, face expression and voice all reflect an adequate sense of gratefulness and respect for his time and knowledge. My efforts are rewarded as I get a somewhat honest answer, if one that also vastly underestimates my knowledge in the subject.
When I exit the office, however, I do not feel exultant or accomplished; I am actually angry with myself and with my interviewee for the charade. For having had to feign ignorance and slow thinking in front of officials I have researched. I know, however, that others approaches (confident assertiveness or jovial camaraderie) would have not worked. As a female researcher, the ‘good girl persona’ is my only realistic approach to interviewing powerful institutional elites.
We were not expecting this. We were not prepared for this. The year was 1999 and the world was faced with one of its greatest expectations ever: the 2000s. The new millennium. A new era. A time forged from the previous decades, especially in the 1990s, but then also completely different. From the 2000’s on, kids would grow up connected to computers and electronic devices with limitless potential. There was the Internet, with a whole new way of communication. Worldwide. Connection. There were cableless tools. There were Nokia’s, Motorolas, Sony Ericsson’s, and then the IPhone, and Android. A beautiful picture.
Those were only some of the expectations of that time. And you could say that indeed we live in this world today. But back then, blocking the door to that new period, there was a possibly huge problem. A problem that could actually stop the development of this beautifully cybernetic world or maybe postpone it for a couple of years: the so-called millennium bug.Continue reading “The true millennium bug”→